five years ago after 10 years of pleading, wheedling
and cajoling on the part of our daughters, my husband
Bob Ipcar and I finally gave in and got a puppy.
Yuffie, named for a Sony PlayStation character,
was not the compact Pug or Spaniel we had originally
considered. She was a Neapolitan Mastiff; projected
weight, between 120 and 150 pounds. But love is
not rational; when we first saw those droopy brown
eyes, we were smitten. There was something so intelligent
and appealing about her that despite the massive
size potential, we just HAD to have that dog!
At 5 months and 50 pounds, she already produced enough
"poop" to necessitate carrying around the
larger sized plastic shopping bags as opposed to
the baggies we had had in mind. However it was a
small price to pay for the delight she provided.
Yuffie was housebroken in a matter of days, didn't
jump up on people or furniture, came back when she
was called and could be trusted in the same room
with a roast chicken even if our backs were turned!
She delighted in carrying the newspaper home after
her park walks, was completely non-confrontational
around other dogs, and best of all, she loved people.
We knew we shouldn't keep Yuffie's good nature to
At a FIDO sponsored lecture about a year and a half
ago, spokespeople from "The Good Dog Foundation"
an organization which certifies "therapy dogs,"
explained their aims and training procedures designed
to bring dogs into hospitals for patient visitations.
The idea instantly appealed to us. When the opportunity
arose to participate in training sessions in nearby
Windsor Terrace, we jumped at the chance. Yuffie "graduated"
from The Good Dog Foundation training class and in
no time we were volunteering at New York Methodist
Hospital, serving in the geriatric and adult psych
units for one hour on a biweekly basis.
The primary aim of Therapy Dog visit is to cheer
the patients, although I must say that even the staff
appreciates Yuffie's presence. We've seen patients
who were virtually non-communicative come out of
their rooms to pet our dog. Elderly patients, many
of whom have problems recalling more recent events
in their lives, fondly recount past and present relationships
they have with their own beloved pets. Dogs can be
so completely non-judgmental when it comes to illness.
They see the spirit inside the person and react with
favor to those who treat them with kindness, even
people who are not feeling their best. And let's
face it, what better solace is there after a bad
day than to hug a warm fuzzy dog?
Research studies are currently being conducted by
the Good Dog Foundation to support what hospital
and nursing home personnel have observed all along:
that the presence of animals in these institutions
can deeply enrich and stimulate the patients in a
profound and lasting way. Surprisingly, there is
nothing negative or depressing at all about the hospital
atmosphere; not to say that one never witnesses sorrow
or disorientation on the part of patients from time
to time. But it is more than made up for by the smiles
and warm responses we receive on each visit.
As for Yuffie, she enjoys her ride up on the hospital
elevator and the multitude of treats and hugs that
greet her when she "goes to work". We think
she knows that she is well loved and appreciated
on the job and at 130+ pounds, she's got a lot of
love to give back.
you have a good natured, low key dog that you would
like to share with hospital patients? Size is no
object! Contact The Good Dog Foundation here in
Park Slope and schedule a screening. There is a
fee for the training sessions and certification.
Go to: www.thegooddogfoundation.org
Yuffie passed away in 2004, as calm, considerate a working dog as you'll ever find; the most gentle of her giant breed. Though her time was far too short, our lives were the richer for having known her. Today we work with Denali, who passed his certification with the Good Dog Foundation and continues Yuffies good deeds at New York Methodist Hospital.
Bob, Jane, Katie & Jenna